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American defense company “Anduril Industries” has signed with a US customer on a new subsonic VTOL drone that can be used for surveillance missions or a kamikaze-like strike on moving aircraft.
The company has reportedly been working for the past two years on the Roadrunner autonomous drone, which is powered by twin-jet propulsion and can be outfitted with various payloads. The first variant is the Roadrunner-Munition (or Roadrunner-M) which contains a high-explosive interceptor meant to destroy an array of aerial threats.
Anduril founder Palmer Luckey spoke about the product, stating it is “somewhere between a reusable missile and a full-scale autonomous aircraft [with] the ability to preemptively and speculatively deploy large numbers of anti-air interceptors.” He further explains that it is so the used can buy some time and only consume the munitions required for the threat is while returning all of the rest.
According to Breaking Defense, when a potential threat is detected the autonomous drone is designed to launch vertically, track the potential target, and destroy it. In case the operators decide not to strike, the Roadrunner-M can return to its pre-designated location, vertically land, refuel, and be reused again.
Luckey has stated that the company currently has one US customer and declined to disclose who it is, but it is also known that the US special operations community aims to “accelerate” the development of a counter-unmanned aerial system (cUAS) dubbed “Roadrunner” that is designed to deal with Group 3 drones (UAVs that weigh less than 600 kg). Ever since the Russia-Ukraine war proved that small and medium-sized drones could be very effective, the US military has prioritized the development and acquisition of cUAS systems.